NEW YORK (AP) — A fashion designer already serving 59 years to life in California for molesting would-be models was sentenced in New York on Tuesday to five years in a similar case in a courtroom full of his supporters who blew him kisses.
Anand Jon Alexander, 39, admitted to one count of criminal sexual act in February for sexually assaulting a woman he baited with the promise of modeling work. He was named a high-risk sex offender and sexually violent predator Tuesday.
Outside court, his sister Sanjana Jon said she worked with him for years and she knows he's innocent.
"Anand Jon is innocent and he will prove it. The truth will come out," she said. "This is an innocent person who is being victimized."
Alexander had initially been charged with preying on a dozen women, but the figure then dropped to three. Prosecutors said some of the victims were minors, and some were drugged when he forced himself on them.
Some of the victims had already testified in the California case and Assistant District Attorney Maxine Rosenthal said prosecutors offered the plea deal so that the women wouldn't have to testify again and because he is already serving substantial prison time.
She said the victims were OK with the plea deal. "They were satisfied due to the length of the sentence in California," Rosenthal said.
He was transferred from a California prison to New York during the case. His prison time in New York amounts to time served, so no years will be tacked onto his California sentence, Alexander's attorney said.
Alexander, who wore a form-fitting gray suit and pink shirt with a vest, disputed the reason for the deal in court but didn't elaborate.
"Whatever their reasons for offering the plea were, my reasons were different," he said. Alexander's attorney said that he admitted to the crime so he could get evidence and materials from New York prosecutors needed to help overturn his conviction in California.
Judge Cassandra Mullen had to ask Alexander several times if he had anything to say about his sentencing. He finally replied: "I'd like to thank everyone for being here."
He did not apologize to the victim, a common occurrence at sentencings.
Born in India, Alexander — known professionally as Anand Jon — launched a fashion line in 1999 and built it into a high-flying career. He was featured on "America's Next Top Model," worked with such celebrities as Paris Hilton and Mary J. Blige and was among 20 people profiled by Newsweek in 2006 as up-and-coming players in various industries.
Then, in 2007, sex assault allegations against Alexander began surfacing. He was convicted in Los Angeles the next year of sexually assaulting seven women and girls, some as young as 14. An appeals court affirmed the conviction in 2012. His lawyers are working on filing a petition before a higher court.
The New York courtroom was full of supporters who traveled from India and California and wore white T-shirts that had a photo on them and read "Free Anand Jon." As Alexander was led away, he turned and smiled broadly at them. Some blew kisses.
His mother, Shashi Abraham, implored the public to look closely at the facts of the case. "People do believe in his innocence. Look at how many people are here supporting him, from all over," she said.
Outside court, men hung a banner that read "Free Anand Jon" to a fence near the courthouse.